I looked at “Big Red” Deb laid out in the hospital, tubes running out of her, blood running out of her, but saw a strong soul running within her. She was sedate, resting, not in peace, but in the unsettled and medicated calm that comes after violence. Her close friends gathered around her bed, stroking her hair and blanketing her with warm thoughts.
"Her feet are cold," said one loved one. "So are her hands," said another.
A nurse pointed out how pretty Deb’s toes looked. She had just got them did that morning in preparation for The Original Big 7’s Mother’s Day Second Line. A doctor trying to wake Deb up told her to wiggle her toes if she could hear them. A friend told the doctor that Deb wasn’t one to take orders.
Deb’s tongue seemed to push its way through her teeth as she lay, still asleep, as if she was trying to say something. I tried to imagine what she attempted to say as bullets ripped through her back, perhaps running from the monster who opened fire on the Mother’s Day parade crowd.
What kind of monster opens fire on a Mother’s Day parade crowd? What kind of animal? I hate myself for thinking to ask this in these exact terms, but it’s these exact terms in which I’m thinking.
You already read the stories: Nineteen people shot; seven of them women, some of them perhaps mothers. Ten men shot. All of them have mothers. And then the kids. A 10-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl. I thought of my own 10-year-old son, Justice, who I’m hundreds of miles away from, and how I would feel if I found out from the news that he had been shot.
Nola.com, or whatever they’re calling it these days, reported that “Both of the 10-year-old victims had graze wounds to the body and were in good condition.”
What child can be in good condition, though, after that? The bullets may have only grazed their bodies, but I’m certain that terror surely struck their souls.
Or maybe not. Maybe, the kids of New Orleans are who the media say they are, these “resilient” super humans who’ve encountered so much death — from Katrina to the “murder capital” stats to all the bodies caught in Lil’ Wayne songs — that getting shot or shot at is nothing to them. So dey in good condition. It’s nothing.
I don’t believe that. All I know is that it must take an animal to open fire on a gathering of men, women and children singing and dancing in the streets, celebrating mothers. Who does dat? What does dat?
If my kid got shot, even if he was only grazed, my initial desire would be to care for my injured son. My second desire would be for blood. Perhaps my third or fourth might be for forgiveness or justice, but they wouldn’t come before blood.
If my mother or father, sister or brother, auntie or uncle or cousin were among the 19 shot, I don’t know how I would feel. For Deb, the close friends around her hospital bed are geographically her closest next of kin. Her mother lives in California. I don’t want to know what the feeling is to find out on Mother’s Day that your daughter has been shot.
I’m already enraged. My rage grows everytime I see a picture of those shot laying near pools of blood circulated on Twitter or Facebook or Vine. The images no longer report violence; they merely illustrate and animate it. They damn near auto-tune it, and “followers” automatically tune into it.
If I found out my mother was among those shot? We can take it out of yesterday’s context. If I lost my mother for any reason, at any point in my life, by bullets or by some other cancer; by an abusive partner or by abusing substances; homicide or suicide; by depression or poverty; or the depression that comes with poverty — it doesn’t matter. If I lost my mother, I couldn’t tell you the kind of person I’d be right now.
If I lost my mother, I can’t tell you that I’d be seeing or thinking straight. I think of Tarina, gunned and knived down by her estranged husband just before Christmas over a year ago, and what her children will be told of their parents every Mother’s Day. I think of Jamel, who lost his Mom to crack long before he took his own life, heartbroken by the fact she would kick him out the house and steal money from him, but would still take a bullet for her if anyone tried to touch her.
If I lost my Mom, i can’t promise you that I’d be a Christian about it. I can’t promise you that I’d be a journalist about it. Chances are that the Christian values and the extended family love I was raised with would overpower any feelings of vengeance if such a tragedy happened.
But absent that, I can’t call it.
If I had witnessed dead family members floating away from me while helicopters flew away from me during Katrina floods, i can’t tell you that my condition would be good.
If I had seen the blood, guts and spleens of friends cut open and splattered by assault weapons, I can’t tell you that those visions wouldn’t also assault my mind.
If I had no school counselors to talk to about such images, and no mental health hospitals or clinics to go to, no insurance to access them if they existed, I can’t guarantee you that I’d be handling this logically.
If I had no one to turn to, except my mother, except my mother was gunned down herself years ago, I’d be lying if I said I could handle all this peacefully.
If I grew up with any of the above maladies or disorders as an “at risk” child, I can’t tell you what kind of person I would be. I cant promise you that I’d be a person at all. I might just’ve grown up a goon, a goblin, a monster or an animal. I just might have grown up to be the animal so overwrought with pain that I’d shoot into a crowd of dancing and singing men, women and children.
Or maybe I’d grow up to become the doctor telling the victim to wake up and wiggle their toes. Or perhaps we’re all better off as we are, resting in the unsettled and medicated calms that come after violence, struggling to say something, but can’t. Rather, in our case, won’t say something. So we say nothing and go on about our business.
Mother’s Day was only yesterday.
— Brentin Mock